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Located just below the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and just above the City of Bradford, Keighley forms the third largest civil parish in England, with a population of around 90,000 people.
History of Keighley.
Like many towns and cities, Keighley has gone through many changes in its spelling, and like many places in Britain, its original meaning is nothing more than a description of what it used to be, which is “cyhha’s farm or clearing.”
It is also mentioned in the Domesday Book, spelt, “Cichhekai.”
Throughout much of its early history, Keighley remained prosperous yet small, as it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that it began to grow in size. Much like other towns in the area, its primary industry was in textiles, with wool and cotton being processed throughout many mills in the area.
According to a Leeds Directory, written by William White, “Its parish had no dependent townships though it is about six miles long and four broad, and comprises 10,160 acres (4,112 ha) of land (including a peaty moor of about 2,000 acres) and a population which amounted, in the year 1801, to 5,745.”
After growing in size throughout the 19th century, the town became a municipal borough in 1882, before merging into the Metropolitan Borough of Bradford in 1974.
After accusations of neglect were made against Bradford Council, civil parish status was restored to the town in 2002.
One of the many reasons that people visit Keighley is because it is considered to be one of the primary towns featured in what is known as Brontë Country – an area of the south Pennine hills celebrated for its gritstone and many places of natural, beautiful and rugged areas. By car, Keighley is roughly 15 minutes away from the village of Howarth, where the Brontë family lived.
To add to its Brontë image, the centre of Keighley is largely made up of grand and illustrious Victorian era buildings that are often found to be the delight of American and European tourists – especially within the Victorian quarter of the town.
Thanks to the natural beauty of the area, and the fact that so many buildings within the centre are so well preserved, Keighley often finds itself at the centre of film and television productions – most notably The Railway Children (1979), Blow Dry (2000), and North and South (2004).
ANOTHER LITERARY CONNECTION.
As well as being the area that influenced the great works of the Brontë family, it is also a possibility that Keighley has had some influence on the works of Bernard Cornwall, as within Utley Cemetery lies the grave of Christopher Ingham.
A veteran of the conflict against Napoleon, Ingham was a member of the Duke of Wellington’s elite 95th Rifle Regiment and fought in no less than ten battles against the French throughout the European continent.
Having been awarded several medals for his efforts within the Spanish Peninsula War and the Battle of Waterloo, Ingham died in 1866, and many historians now believe that Ingham is the inspiration for the fictional character of Major Richard Sharpe. In the television episode, Sharpe’s Justice, the plot focuses on the roots of Sharpe, which is found to be in and around the Keighley area.